Boosting the competitive edge 

An idea that started out as an agenda item for a business meeting has turned into a winning solution for Potter Interior Systems - delighting its staff, delivering rewards for the business and providing a competitive edge for the company as an employer of choice. 

Established in 1966, Potter Interior Systems (Potters) services New Zealand's commercial construction industry with products ranging from aluminium partitions and suspended ceiling panels to insulation, acoustic  wall coverings and whiteboards. With a team of 50 and offices in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, it's part of the CSR group - a leading Australasian building products company that includes well known brands such as Monier, Hebel, Bradfords, NZ Bricks and Viridian Glass. 

While business is booming, Potters' market is incredibly competitive and, as General Manager Craig Hawkins points out, good people are hard to find. He's always on the lookout for ways to attract skilled, motivated staff - and immediately loved the idea of offering health insurance when it was discussed at a business meeting with his CSR colleagues. 

"The more you can put on the table to attract and keep good people, the better," he says. "It made instant sense to me, both from a commercial perspective and because we're committed to offering our employees a healthy, safe, supportive and positive working environment." 

A popular choice 

Southern Cross was Craig's first - and only - choice of health insurance partner. "I'd heard good things about them, and the package they offered was just what we were looking for" he says. "One of the best things was the cover for pre-existing conditions; that really appealed and I knew our staff would like it too." 

Launched in July 2016, Potters' fully funded Southern Cross health insurance covers surgery and related expenses as well as non-surgical treatment and cancer care. Employees are welcome to add modules such as vision and dental care at their own cost, as well as adding family members. 

The insurance has proved a popular option for the Potters team, with around 95 per cent signing up and many personally thanking Craig for the gesture. 

"It's a win-win for everyone," he says. "Many of our staff would struggle to fund private health insurance themselves, yet it offers so many benefits in enabling them to access private healthcare without the stress and worry of costs and waiting lists."

"It is also a great complement to the other staff benefits we offer, such as free annual flu jabs, annual health and wellbeing check-ups and a fortnightly on-site physiotherapy service, for which staff can book consultations." 

While the health insurance scheme is still in its early days, it's already showing results for the business. 

"It's clearly good for staff morale and productivity," says Craig. "We're quietly confident that we'll see tangible evidence of its success in the results of our staff satisfaction surveys." 

The insurance has also become a feature of the company's recruitment and induction programme, with all new employees offered it after three months of full-time employment. Craig credits the Southern Cross team with making the sign-up process easy. 

"They contact each person soon after they arrive and explain how the package works and how to apply - and there's a great website and online services that make it simple to lodge claims and do the admin side of invoicing and payment. Everything is clear and concise, just as it should be." 

A personal experience 

Within a few weeks of becoming a Southern Cross member, Craig himself made a claim - for a condition called Dupuytren's disease, which, while not painful, prevented his hands working properly. His health insurance enabled him to access at $12,000 operation, from which he's now fully recovered. 

The process, he says, was seamless. "I take my hat off to Southern Cross," he says. "They explained the process and how to make a claim, then everything was organised online. I was booked in and having the surgery in no time, and today my hands are feeling great." 

Craig comments that Southern Cross delivers the value he was looking for. "The costs of subsidising the scheme are reasonable and are far outweighed by the benefits," he says. "It's proving a good investment; I'd definitely recommend it."